CD 2 - Italian-American Electronic Music Dramas
Part Three: The CDs
Emergent Music And Visual Music: Inside Studies
Ronald A Pellegrino

Please note that as of 10/25/10 this and the other 7 CD pages on my site will include one sound sample and its associated program note, all the track titles for the particular CD, and an excerpt from the essay associated with the CD desciption found in my latest book, Realizing Electronic Dreams: A Composer's Notes and Themes. The new book includes complete essays for each CD plus detailed program notes for every track on every CD as well as numerous related photographs and illustrations.

If you do not have a good quality satellite sound system connected to the audio output of your computer, as the composer I would prefer that you NOT download the sound samples. My pieces are like my spirit children and I don't want them to be treated badly by inadequate transducers. It's already bad enough that the sound samples are compressed versions (a current internet requirement) of what you would hear from the CDs which are in themselves digitized (distorted) versions of the analog sounds as I heard them originally. To navigate those shoals I test and adjust all my sound samples on 7 different audio systems and 3 different computers in my personal studios and scores of audio and computer systems out in the field. In a nutshell, what I've found is that all built-in computer sound systems STINK and should never be used for music. If you are more than half-serious about music, connect at least a good audio system to your computer. The better the audio system, the richer and deeper your musical experience, and the closer to hearing the music as the composer did.

Furthermore, please remember that the sound samples are just samples--not highlights, not the pieces, just out of context highly compressed excerpts that hang together in ways that give a sense of what one might expect to hear from various tracks. It's important to get beyond confusing the samples for the pieces. If you are at all interested in the quality of music, listening to a CD via a good audio system gets your ears reasonably close to the original music. In any case, avoid settling for dumbed down audio. The difference between even a decent satellite audio system hanging on the end of a computer and what you would hear from a good standalone audio system is like the difference between night and day. Often I hear from young people who've grown up with buds in the ears that they doubt they could hear the difference between mediocre and good audio. My response to them is that now is a good time to educate your ear so you can have a lifelong deeper appreciation of the power and beauty of sound to affect your soul. Much is lost when music is considered no more than a commodity to be squeezed into smaller and smaller storage spaces. Go for the systems that can handle bigger files; they tell better stories.


CD 2 - Italian-American
Electronic Music Dramas

Excerpt from associated essay, Making Music With Friends

"My first music partner was my first music teacher’s dog, a red Irish setter who loved Italian arias. As a nine year old when I was a beginning student in old Pete Nicolai’s teaching studio having clarinet lessons, the dog would lie quietly just outside the studio door waiting for me to get through my technical exercises and move on to what he considered real music—melodies from arias of Italian operas that filled so many pages of my music text, The Arban Method (a classic text for trumpeters (Pete was an old country Italian trumpeter as well as the conductor of the Kenosha Civic Band, the only source of classical music (transcribed) when I was growing up in Kenosha, Wisconsin)). Whenever I played a melody in a way the Irish setter found moving he would sing (howl?) along with my playing and that always sent chills up my spine. According to Mr. Nicolai, his dog was an accomplished music critic singing only when the melody was played correctly and with feeling.

It was much later when I started working with analog electronic instruments that I realized how indebted I was to Pete’s dog for my musical outlook. He naturally and freely shaped sound according to how he felt in response to what moved him; and that I learned over the years, without equal, is the best approach to composing music that communicates directly to the living spirit, human and otherwise. My animal-inspired sounds and expressions are easy enough to hear on my duets with Sal, perhaps easiest on Track 1 - Phoenix Rising. Sal’s huge and highly imaginative sonic palette is more classically electronic than mine, which tends to employ more electronically generated vocal, animal, monster, and toy sounds…"

Track Titles for CD 2 - Italian-American Electronic Music Dramas
plus program note and sound sample for Track 1


Track 1 - Phoenix Rising (1973). CD 2 of EMERGENT MUSIC AND VISUAL MUSIC: INSIDE STUDIES is called Italian-American Electronic Music Dramas because it features the music synthesizer duets of Ron Pellegrino and Sal Martirano (no surprise, two Italian-Americans); the duets are filled with the sort of dramatic music that can be expected from the play of boys basking in being bad. The tracks were recorded at three separate times and places—in 1973 during a live performance at the University of Illinois Phoenix ’73 Festival of New Music, in 1974 during evenings of play in Sal’s University of Illinois studio, and in 1975 at Sal’s personal facility located on his property.

We did several public performances during the Phoenix '73 Festival but we also spent a number of days and nights just exploring and playing in one amazing sound world after another (and archiving from time to time). Those ’73 sessions set the stage for our meetings in 1974 and 1975 when I was periodically driving back and forth between a home in the San Francisco Bay Area and a faculty gig at Oberlin.

On all the tracks, Sal, a giant of a musician and electronic music pioneer, performed on his own one-of-a-kind hybrid synthesizer creation, the SalMar Construction, and I played a just-configured portable road show set of synthesizers that included an ARP 2600, two Synthi AKSs, and a boxed collection of Buchla 200 Series modules, (I cross-patched all my synthesizers to behave like a single complex instrument in many ways similar conceptually to the SalMar Construction).

On this CD the track titles are mine. They reflect my memory of the psychological range we explored in our play, a world in which there were no musical restrictions. Sal was 13 years my senior but he was one of those people with a twinkle in his eye like a grade school kid at recess. In addition to being a very serious classical composer and jazz pianist, he loved the world of wild sound and the freedom it engendered. We never exchanged words about what we were about to do in our sessions—no explicit plans; rather it was the actual sounds of our instruments that were the only form of communication for our duets.

Pellegrino's road set

Sometimes Sal led, sometimes I did. Because his hybrid instrument required a certain amount of programming (results in an occasional built-in time lag) I remember that when it was my turn to follow, I often adapted my sounds to fit Sal’s world. I was not absolutely sure I needed to do that but it felt right at the time. Making such adjustments was a new synthesizer experience for me and I enjoyed it immensely because it was a real time test of adaptability, at that time a test best suited to analog synthesizers. We let the flow and the shape of our music decide how long we would explore compositional notions; there never seemed to be any doubt that we would end up on the same page. Both Sal and I were serious composers steeped in the classical tradition so if you listen closely to all four tracks you will hear every last formal and structural element that has come down to us through the ages of musical development; of course it was our unstated intention to create a few new elements of our own. You can be the judge of that.

I’ve championed Sal’s musical work since our first meeting in 1969 at a composer’s gathering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. From the outset it was clear that he was the complete musician who balanced intelligence, vision, and a work ethic with a dramatic passion about free play, a rare combination. During my tenure at the Oberlin Conservatory I was part of group of composers who organized the New Directions Concert Series, a series that featured leading American new music composers; and of course in the early 1970s Sal was invited to make a show of his SalMar Construction. In 1977/78 I had a one year visiting professorship at Miami University and once again I hosted Sal as the featured composer on our Current Music Festival. In addition to our 1973-75 recording sessions, throughout the 1970s we shared and performed on the same stages including the University of South Florida, University of Illinois, University of Tampa, Miami University, and UC-Berkeley. That sort of activity ended in the early 1980s when I eased out of the full time academic world to focus on solo performances on the road and the composition of media bands with local artists that I met and organized into performance groups for my gigs on the road. I made a lot of performance pals on the road but after all these years Sal remains my favorite; from the first four tracks on this CD it should be easy to hear why. Sound Sample


Track 2 - Free Electrons (1974)
Track 3 - Brotherly Breezing (1975)
Track 4 - Boys Being Bad (1975)
Track 5 - Markings for Dena Madole (1968/69)
Track 6 - Great Wails for Herbert Blau (1972)

To view selected sections of Emergent Music And Visual Music: Inside Studies, Part 1: The Book, click on one of the following:
Chapter 1, Emergent Music
Chapter 15, Visual Music Flavors

Information on Part 2: The DVDs.

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